Iowa men’s wrestling looking forward to challenge at Penn State

The No. 2 Hawkeyes will face the top-ranked Nittany Lions on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Bryce Jordan Center in State College, Pennsylvania.


Daniel McGregor-Huyer

Iowa’s top-ranked 125-pound Spencer Lee walks off the mat after pinning Northwestern’s No. 3 Michael DeAugustino during a dual between Iowa and Northwestern at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Jan. 14, 2023. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wildcats, 27-9.

Kenna Roering, Sports Reporter

The Hawkeyes’ most anticipated dual meet of the season is here. The No. 2 Iowa men’s wrestling team will travel to Happy Valley on Friday for a matchup with top-ranked reigning national champions Penn State at 7:30 p.m.

“They know the rankings, they know what’s at stake,” Iowa head coach Tom Brands said of his squad in a press conference on Tuesday. “Whether we’re here or there, it’s going to be a great environment. Competitors thrive in those situations.”

Friday’s matchup will be televised live on BTN with Shane Sparks and Jim Gibbons on the call. The Hawkeyes hold a 28-11-2 advantage over the Nittany Lions in the all-time series, but Penn State took down Iowa, 19-13, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in the 2021-22 season.

Iowa’s last victory over a top-ranked opponent came on Nov. 14, 2015, when the Hawkeyes defeated the Oklahoma State Cowboys, 18-16, in front of over 42,000 spectators at Grapple on the Gridiron in Kinnick Stadium.

The Hawkeyes’ last victory over the Nittany Lions came in a 19-17 thriller in January 2020 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Friday’s projected lineups feature 19 ranked wrestlers and three top-10 battles at 141, 197, and 285 pounds.

Iowa’s top-ranked 125-pounder Spencer Lee will look to continue his dominant season on Friday against Penn State’s Gary Steen. Lee has won six consecutive matches by fall, with four of those pins coming against top-10 opponents.

The Murrysville, Pennsylvania, native won Big Ten Wrestler of the Week honors on Jan. 24 after pinning the Huskers’ third-ranked Liam Cronin in 38 seconds and the Badgers’ fourth-ranked Eric Barnett in 4:38 last Friday and Sunday, respectively.

RELATED: Iowa men’s wrestler Spencer Lee continues dominant run in Iowa victory over Nebraska

Lee is chasing after his fourth individual NCAA title, which only four other wrestlers have achieved in their career — including Nittany Lion head coach Cael Sanderson.

“[Lee] is an incredible, competitive man,” Brands said. “Whatever’s inside of him that’s keeping that fire going, it’s unique. It’s rare.”

Iowa’s 133-pounder Brody Teske, who competed for Penn State from 2018-20, will make his return to Happy Valley and have his toughest task yet as a Hawkeye on Friday.

Teske is projected to face top-ranked four-time All-American and two-time national champion Roman Bravo-Young. Teske is 4-0 on the season, while Bravo-Young is 9-0 and has won 45 consecutive matches.

“I know that [Teske] has nothing but respect for [Penn State],” Brands said, “but I also know that his entire life, he’s wanted to be where he’s at now. To see him in Carver-Hawkeye Arena against Nebraska and then go on the road in a tough environment back-to-back with one day rest in between — that’s progress.”

RELATED: Iowa men’s wrestler Brody Teske uses new perspective in victory over Nebraska

The Hawkeyes’ second-ranked 141-pounder Real Woods is projected to face the Nittany Lions’ fourth-ranked Beau Bartlett. Woods is 9-0 on the year with three consecutive victories over ranked opponents. Bartlett was an NCAA qualifier at 149 pounds in 2022 and is 14-0 this season.

Iowa’s 15th-ranked 157-pounder Cobe Siebrecht will get a shot at either ninth-ranked Levi Hanes or unranked Terrell Barraclough. Siebrecht is 8-2 on the season with four victories over ranked foes.

Hanes, a true freshman for the Nittany Lions, has competed in five varsity dual meets this season. Wrestlers looking to redshirt are only allowed five matches at the varsity level without burning it for the season.

Haines can still redshirt if he doesn’t compete for the remainder of the season. If he does wrestle against Siebrecht on Friday, he’ll likely be the starter for Penn State entering the postseason. Barraclough, on the other hand, is 3-2 in dual meets this season.

Friday’s 165-pound match will feature Iowa’s 13th-ranked Patrick Kennedy and Penn State’s fifth-ranked Alex Facundo. Kennedy beat Facundo, 5-2, in the Who’s Number One event at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in 2019.

The 197-pound bout will be a rematch of the 2022 NCAA finals, featuring Iowa’s seventh-ranked Jacob Warner and Penn State’s fourth-ranked Max Dean.

Warner is 0-2 all-time against Dean, falling 8-3 in last year’s dual meet and 3-2 in the NCAA title match. Warner wasn’t in the lineup against Wisconsin on Jan. 22.

Iowa’s third-ranked Tony Cassioppi and Penn State’s second-ranked Greg Kerkvliet will battle in the heavyweight bout on Friday. Cassioppi is 3-0 all-time against Kerkvliet in varsity matches.

The pair faced each other at the National Wrestling Coaches Association All-Star Classic in November, and Kerkvliet won, 8-5. The match, however, was an exhibition and did not count toward their official NCAA records or the season’s RPI.

Cassioppi is 16-0 this season with 10 falls. Kerkvliet is 8-1, his lone loss coming against Michigan’s then-No. 2 Mason Parris on Jan. 20.

“It’s one of the buzz matches,” Brands said of Friday’s heavyweight match. “Again, we have to be better than we were in November, and it’s not going to be where you just fall into it. You have to go out there and impose yourself on an opponent that is skilled, and you’re going to have to overcome and win tough positions.”

RELATED: Iowa men’s wrestler Tony Cassioppi delivers dual-clinching win over Wisconsin

While the Nittany Lions are favored on Friday and will have a sold-out Bryce Jordan Center to their advantage, Brands is urging the Hawkeyes to dig deep and relish the challenge in front of them.

“How much do you crave a challenge? Then when that challenge is put in front of you, how much do you crave success? Are you going to will it to go your way?” Brands said. “These are the opportunities to do that.”

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